BEHIND CLOSED DOORS: LARISSA GUNN

Larissa Gunn has a deep love for Jamaica. Her line, Balmyard Beauty, is a celebration of the plants, herbs and music that hail from the island and is teeming with the energy and power of the land. Marrying the rich local botanics with wise, traditional folk medicine, her oils bring the essence of the islands home. Welcome to Balmyard.

What is your skincare philosophy? 

I really think simple and less is always better, and that applies to a lot of things in life outside of skincare as well. I find that having things be streamlined is calming in a way, clutter gives me anxiety.  

I want to use products that are effective of course, but also that look beautiful, I am a really visual person so if the packaging is bad I can’t buy it. I know it is silly and I obviously know better because I am in the industry, but I just can’t do it! If you are paying a fair amount of money for something it should feel special, and I applied that philosophy to all of the Balmyard products. I wanted them to each be their own beautiful object that is not only enjoyable to use but enjoyable to feel, smell, look at; a full sensory experience. Plus it should be worth what you are paying for it.

What inspired you to create Balmyard Beauty? 

I never imagined that I would ever launch a beauty brand. This was something that I was doing on the side of my primary career as a casting director which I still do. More of a passion project that grew in a really organic way, and slowly. I didn’t start it to make money, its really a labor of love. I was really just pursuing things I was interested in, so natural skincare, plant medicine, design, etc. I have always been in awe of the vast, common knowledge and widespread use of plant medicine in other cultures outside of the United States. The Caribbean is no different, even in the cities everyone knows a bit about what can heal you from your backyard, it isn’t considered ‘alternative medicine’, it's the first line of defense in many cases. I have spent time over the years with herbalists, bush doctors and friends who have cured me of colds, belly and headaches, and other ailments. So much is passed down through generations, so different from here where as you know it's just a profit based industry that sort of relies on the population being unwell. 

Additionally and maybe more significant,  I really just wanted to create a body oil to slather on in NYC winters that would make me feel like I was somewhere warm and beautiful and surrounded by lush flora.

How do you start your day?

My 15 month old is usually my alarm clock..anyone who tells you they get up before their kids to spend hours reading and meditating is LYING. So I start my day with snuggles, feeding him and getting him changed and then while he plays I will make myself some sort of tea or tonic or coffee depending on how I am feeling. I’ve been drinking a lot of Zizia Botanicals blends as well as fevergrass + guinea hen weed tea that I brought back from the market in Jamaica. The CAP Coconut Butter is also a nice morning indulgence to add to a hot beverage.

What is your skincare routine? 

AM

Heart of Gold Astral Traveler Cleansing Fluid

May Lindstrom Jasmine Garden spray toner

Marie Veronique Vitamin C Serum

Vive Sana Daily Protezione Sunscreen on face + neck (I’ve been using this to replace my morning moisturizer all summer, but now that things are cooling down I want to add in the Monastery Aloe gel to go underneath).

Zoca Lotion sunscreen on body 

Balmyard Paradise Bronzing Oil on arms, legs and décolletage while in Jamaica and NYC summer for a sexy sheen. 

Balmyard Siren Luster Hair oil on my dry ends and for shine + texture.

 

PM

IS Clinical Cleansing Complex

May Lindstrom Jasmine Garden spray toner

IS Clinical Active Serum

Heart of Gold Resonant Frequency Glow Serum

Heart of Gold Northern Lights Oilserum or Balmyard’s Moonlight Lover Face Oil 

Three times per week I will swap out the IS Clinical/HOG Resonant Frequency and do the Monastery XX Rose Glycolic Gel followed by the Flora Serum. I am obsessed with that line, each product feels so unique and special, the packaging is gorgeous and the products themselves are incredible. 

For baby I use the Alaffia Baobab Baby line which is so nourishing and fragrance free so perfect for sensitive skin. They also source all locally fair trade ingredients and support numerous cooperatives in the West African region. Motherlove also makes great postpartum products and diaper balm. 

 

What other practices do you have that support you feeling your best?

I have to be honest, since becoming a mother I have not really felt my best; just keeping it real for the other moms out there. The transition into motherhood is like nothing you can imagine..physically, mentally and emotionally. I am still adjusting! Nobody really tells you, then you have a baby and all of a sudden you are like ‘what is happening?? who am I? what are my priorities? how am I going to do all this? will my pants ever fit again?’. 

There is a lot of pressure to maintain a certain image and have it all together. Be great moms, have successful careers, look amazing, read and meditate for hours every morning before your kids wake up! And it just isn’t realistic or easy, which makes you feel like you are failing. In the ‘wellness’ sphere this is all in the name of self care but a lot of these practices are very expensive (and therefore inaccessible to many people) and very time consuming. So if you work a full time job (or two in my case) and you are a mother which is also a full time job, it is difficult to keep up..especially as a full time single parent. And this year has clearly not given anyone any breaks. 

So to finally answer your question, I focus on the moments of joy like listening to my son’s laughter, and putting on music and dancing with him. Music is so healing and is such a huge influence on my life. And I try my best to carve out a little time here and there for just myself. I don’t ever get to do anything extravagant, but that makes me all the more appreciative of the little things. I will try to do an online Sky Ting yoga class while I am at my studio, have a phone session with my therapist, treat myself to a delicious takeout meal so that I don’t have to cook or do dishes, sticking to my skincare routines, going for walks around the neighborhood to clear my head. I know these things aren’t necessarily impressive and may not make for aspirational online content but I think (hope) that some people can relate. 

What ingredient are you most drawn to and why?

- Hibiscus Seed Oil (Body): Hibiscus is a native flower of the Caribbean and grows everywhere in the world that is beautiful it seems. The oil’s properties are incredibly beneficial for the skin, helping with evening skin tone and elasticity. People are mostly focused on their face and forget that the skin ages everywhere..

- Coffee oil, cacao, raspberry seed oil, watermelon seed oil (Bronzing) - I wanted to utilize ingredients that are connected to the island and would provide additional local import/export opportunities with reliable suppliers. So the coffee and cacao both fall within that category as well as smelling amazing. Coffee oil is said to potentially reduce the appearance of cellulite. The watermelon and raspberry seed oils are both protective against the elements and nurturing, in addition to enhancing a serious natural glow.

- The signature Balmyard fragrance - appears in both the Body and Bronzing Oils. While I can’t reveal our secret formula, It is a blend of native florals of the Caribbean and other botanical extracts that took a year to perfect with our perfumer. It had to be all natural, not astronomically expensive as many essential oils and natural fragrances can be, and most importantly had to remind me of my travels..namely falling asleep with the perfume of night blooming blossoms gently blowing in through the windows. Fragrance is so closely tied to memory and I wanted there to be a transportive property to it. Other people have told me that the fragrance brings them back to a special place they’ve visited or a personal memory and thats exactly what I had intended, so happy about that!

Jamaica has been such a huge inspiration for you and your line. What has moved you about the island and the people you have met?

At this point I feel like I have two lives, the one in New York and the one in Jamaica as I split my time between them. But from childhood, I had been really drawn to Caribbean music and culture. Maybe this was my parent's influence? They’ve often told me stories of their time there throughout the 1960s + 70s. But the first time I made it to Jamaica about 15 years ago, I was actually stuck at a friend’s family’s house at the top of a small mountain peak. No phone, no car, no beach, no parties, just living an ordinary day to day life. For whatever reason it deeply connected to something. I don’t know how to describe it. But doesn’t everyone have a magical place, where you have traveled and felt an indescribable connection and energy?

But for me it is the vibrancy, there is nowhere else like it. Visually the colors, the overwhelming creativity, the energy, the sense of humor, the STYLE, and the physical landscapes are obviously stunningly beautiful. It produces the most music per square mile than anywhere else in the world, no matter where you are or what time it is, you can usually hear a sound system in the distance, music is woven into the fabric of the island. Most people don’t realize the influence Caribbean culture has had over so much of worldwide culture throughout history, not just music and marijuana culture, but visual arts, performing arts, literature, film, fashion, etc. etc. It is a powerhouse. 

For the brand, I just took elements of my personal experiences and tried to create things that bring me back to where I always want to be, things that make me feel good…honestly I only make products first and foremost that I love and want to use everyday, and then I hope that other people want to use them as well. 

Do you have a favorite ritual?

When on the island, walking from the house down to the beach for an early morning swim before anyone else is there. Or driving into the hills for a dip in the river. It can be spiritual.

What is your go-to when your skin is feeling less than stellar?

My skin has been on an insane hormone rollercoaster the last 2 years basically between pregnancy, breastfeeding and postpartum life adjustment. That being said it has had some major ups and downs. When its been on the down side of things, I will steam my face, double cleanse to make sure it is super clean and do a mask, either the May Lindstrom Problem Solver or Biologique Recherché Masque Vivant. Will also do a spot treatment with the Botnia Fix-Zit treatment if things are really out of control.

How do you end your day?

I spent the summer in Jamaica, but upon my return to NYC I would sit out on the stoop with a glass of wine or a Zizia Botanicals Kava Kava Lollipop and watch the sun set while I try to wind down. 

I prefer to bathe at night as I find it therapeutic to ‘wash off the day’. I love a hot shower or if I’m not too tired a a soak with a Balmyard Detox or Beauty Bush Bath, afterwards I will apply the Balmyard Romantic Call body oil to my still damp skin, and in the winter I top it off with a homemade cocoa butter + jojoba oil blend which is super thick. So I go to bed extremely moisturized and smelling great which is both relaxing, comforting and transformative. I have also been drinking the CAP 10pm O’Clock which definitely mellows me out before I go to sleep.

What are your top 5 products from CAP?

CAP Coconut Butter

Zizia Botanicals Mushroom Mesquite

Monastery Flora Serum

Balmyard Beauty Romantic Call Body Oil

Balmyard Beauty Paradise Bronzing Oil


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published